Friday, November 26, 2010

A Turkey: Senate Bill s510

This Thanksgiving holiday, which is more than any other American holiday, about food, consider briefly the s510 Food Safety Modernization Act. Sponsored by Senator Durbin of Illinois, it is ostensibly an attempt by Congress to prevent food-borne illnesses, which, due to the industrialization of the food supply, have become a nationwide problem. It has become increasingly common, the recall of greens or meat contaminated with e-coli, salmonella, etc, recalls more often than not encompassing ten or twenty or thirty states.

The bill would empower the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with far greater oversight of food production. This, if passed and funded, would result in the hiring of hundreds of thousands, to fill new FDA positions. In a time of 17-18 percent unemployment, that would seem like a win-win situation. Better oversight of food production, more jobs.

Of course, you can bet, the bulk of that oversight will be felt by small producers providing to a local community. Invasive and unnecessary inspections of smaller farms and distributors, and not of the massive facilities controlled by and affiliated with the likes of Cargill, Archers-Daniels-Midland and General Mills. These companies and others like them, which also happen to be the greatest beneficiaries of farm-bill subsidies, will get a free pass, by virtue of well placed political contributions.

This is the kind of well meaning obtuseness offered by the Democratic party these days. "The business sector is not creating jobs. Here, let us do it." A whole new cadre of government bureaucrats enforcing rules, regulations and code, blind to the health of the economy, the Earth or people. Oh, the joy.

Here's an idea. As there is no money to create these Government jobs anyway, and we have a trillion dollar deficit and a 15 trillion dollar debt, end all farm subsidies. It is a curious and unfortunate reality that Government policy and the industrialization of the food supply has made the least healthy food-product the cheapest and most readily available. For those of us who would like to be honest about it, this contributes to the ill-health of the populace, which is very, very lucrative for the Health Care Industry, which is 20% of the overall economy.

End all subsidies for the industrial production of Corn, Soybeans, Wheat, Pork, Beef and Poultry. This will immediately result in farm foreclosures everywhere. Which is fine, frankly, because these will be the farms and farmers most beholden to the industrial way of things, which is unhealthy for the land and people. The land will return to the banks. Here is the tricky part. Banks have ceased to have any concern for the state of the Union, except insofar as things remain stable enough for banks and bankers to continue the process of controlling a greater and greater percentage of the economy - a change from about 10-15% to 30-35% in the last three decades - out of pure self-aggrandizement.

Americans, take the land from the banks. Use a portion of the subsidies we once paid to Industrial producers, and find young families who will grow food, in a healthy way, for X number of people. Use a portion of the fossil fuels we would otherwise burn producing industrial product, to deliver the healthy product provided by these rural families to the city.

Plant the city with gardens and fruit and nut trees, everywhere possible. Let everyone know where their food comes from, so there is a relationship between the grower and the consumer. This will lessen the likelihood of food-borne illnesses considerably. People eating healthier food will be healthier. Health Care costs will go down radically, which will make basic health care more available for more people.

Now, sky gods and the defenders of ill-health will say such a project will result in food shortages. It might, particularly if we rush into it. We are not likely to rush into it. More likely, if we consider it at all, we will deliberate indefinitely, and nothing will happen except the maintaining of the status quo.

We forget, I think, that we are Americans. A nation by, for, and of the people. We have been abdicating our responsibility a long time, handing our power to the sky gods of Institutions, saying, here, take this responsibility, we don't want it. Well, at some point, we take back that responsibility, or we cease to be a Republic and the dream that was America is dead.

Of course, the greatest barrier to our taking responsibility for our food supply and making people and the land and the Union healthier than it is, is not sky gods, or institutions, it's our addiction to High Fructose Corn Syrup and the like. It's the unhealthy way in which we eat, the unhealthy way in which we live, and our demand that we should have whatever Health Care we need whenever we need it. There it is. All change begins with oneself.

Whatever happens, Senate Bill s510 is everything that is wrong with Government. Spending money we don't have to complicate peoples lives while trying to attack a symptom and failing, when saving money with a different approach would eliminate the fundamental problem.

I had Thanksgiving with my sister and her family. We had fun. After dinner my niece pulled out all her scarves and a technicolor wig, and made me look like a glam Jimi Hendrix, (who, by the way, was more a patriot than most sky gods.) I had offered to buy the turkey, but my sister went ahead and bought one anyway. One of those industrial birds that never once in his life saw natural light, a bird bred for bulk and abject stupidity, fed a mixture of processed corn, chemicals, and probably, animal by-product, and copious amounts of antibiotics to keep him from keeling over dead, which he no doubt would have otherwise, before he reached a girth necessary to meet Wall Street expectations. Which bird, due to Federal subsidies, was $0.48/lb, as opposed to the bird I would have purchased, at $2.39 - $7.99 a pound, a locally raised bird that had something resembling a bird's life, provided by a local family I could go and visit, if I were so inclined. Would I be allowed to visit a Jennie-O or Tyson facility?

My sister cooked the bird until it collapsed. She didn't over-cook it, it simply collapsed, at about the same time it was ready to eat. Which may be why the production company didn't bother to include one of those cheap pop-up thermometers; it maybe wasn't just a cost-cutting means to maintain investor confidence. She asked me why I thought it collapsed and I started to talk about the life of the bird but she cut me off. She's got a baby on the way and a seven year old and there isn't much money coming in. She didn't want to hear about the miserable life of the bird she was about to eat. I'm not insensitive; all I was going to say was, the bird had a weak bone structure, for obvious reasons.

I didn't much like the idea of making my flesh of the flesh of a bird whose bone structure was so categorically weak, but I gorged. I think I ate about 3 or 4 lbs. Because it was there, it was offered to me by my sister, and I abhor self-righteousness. If I wanted a better bird I could have ridden my bike the ten miles to the Seward Co-op and back, like I told myself I would. But it has been eff-in cold this week and I've been content to ride my bike no further than the closest coffee shop, to write vehement exhortations on the state of our food supply and the ill-health of this blessed, over-indulgent America.


Robin Datta said...

Reading your suggestions for 'mericuh, I thought of asking you what you were smoking and where you got it, so that I could have some of the same and also feel good. However, your statement "More likely, if we consider it at all, we will deliberate indefinitely, and nothing will happen except the maintaining of the status quo" was quite a disappointment, since it leads me to believe that you are not smoking anything.

William Hunter Duncan said...


I'm not sure what you are refering to, as I did not mention smoking in the post. However, as long as we are discussing Farm policy, I can say that the ban on growing Hemp is one of the great obsurdites of our time; and legalizing the growing of Canabis sativa would put a guick end to the violence of the trade. But legalizing both would end an income flow, from Federal coffers to local jurisdictions, and to the owners and investors of privatized prisons. Corruption, plain and simple.